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Community shows the love for Mielkes

When the call went out for donations to a lasting endowment fund for early childhood education to honor Dr. John and Sally Mielke, the community showed the love for the cause and the couple who has served the community for so long.

Nearly 200 families, individuals, businesses and other organizations contributed to the John and Sally Mielke Early Years Fund for the Fox Valley within the Community Foundation for a total of $341,000 – and growing. (See the list.) The money will be used to support early care and education of children in the Fox Valley, a cause very dear to the Mielkes in recent years.

“Our hope all along was for lots of names, because John and Sally have affected every life in this community in one way or another,” said Jon Stellmacher, who helped lead the fund-raising effort along with John Mielke’s former colleague Dr. Gilbert Mueller, whose lead gift created the fund. The money will fund projects and initiatives that benefit children ages birth to five and their families. Of particular interest are initiatives that are preventative or collaborative in nature and benefit the broader community.

Gifts ranged from $10 or $25 to several gifts of $25,000 and a few even larger. The Community Foundation and the United Way Fox Cities each contributed $25,000. Of that, $15,000 each will to be awarded as grants more immediately, while the rest will be added to a permanent endowment generating grants to support early childhood education long into the future.

The total collected and list of contributors appeared in a full-page ad in The Post-Crescent this past Saturday, John Mielke’s 85th birthday and five days before Sally’s birthday. The Mielkes – feeling they had already gotten too much attention for their efforts on early childhood – declined to add their comment.

Donors’ comments included with their gifts told of a community that respects, honors and loves the couple.

A note from Sue and Dr. Robert Kinde, who worked with Dr. Mielke, said they were sending a gift “in honor of the wonderful contribution they have made to our community. … We have great respect for all they have done and feel privileged to know them.”

A gift from the Doug & Carla Salmon Foundation came with a letter stating, “You have touched the lives of countless people who will never be able to thank you.”

The staff at Appleton Stainless Corp. regularly gets to decide where the company’s charitable gifts should go. They selected the Mielkes’ Early Years Fund.  “You can be assured that your efforts are greatly appreciated by us,” a letter from the company stated. “Please continue your hard work with the knowledge that many are supporting you and wishing for your success. Thank you for all that you do.”

Tom Boldt, CEO of The Boldt Co., said of the Mielkes, “They’ve been great community leaders and we are happy to recognize their many efforts.”

Working with the Appleton Education Foundation, the Mielkes have brought world experts in early childhood education from the University of Wisconsin Waisman Center to the Fox Valley for public presentations. Both AEF and the Waisman Center added their gifts to the fund.

“We are deeply grateful to the Mielkes for their extraordinary leadership, generosity and partnership,” Bill MacLean, interim director of the Waisman Center, wrote. “Their initiatives and support to advance knowledge and expand resources leave an indelible imprint and legacy that will benefit individuals of all abilities for many years to come.” AEF Executive Director Julie Krause called the fund, “a wonderful tribute to two very special people.”

Donations may still be made to the fund. Information is available at

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